Monday, August 11, 2014

The Blue Funnel Line at War

At Tillerman's request its back to maritime issues and the Blue Funnel Line. Coincidently the next stage of Blue Funnel's history involved conflict.

As a maritime trading nation Britain is dependent upon its ships, which made them targets.

In both the First and Second World Wars the Blue Funnel Line suffered grievous loss of life and vessels.

The casualties in what was then called the Great War (which started a hundred years ago this summer) were 16 ships and 80 officers and men. The Second World War was worse, with 41 ships and 324 lives lost.

During the Second World War Blue Funnel Line ships saw action in many of the key theatres, from Dunkirk, to Malta, to the North African Campaigns, to D-Day.

Again and again ships were hit by torpedoes fired by U-boats and crew scrambled for life boats. Casualties were particular high amongst engineers working below the water line.

There were many stories of quiet heroism in the small boats, such as how crew and surviving officers protected the ship's master from being taken away by the U-boat.

As Blue Funnel was a truly global shipping line often the sinking was far from land and the survivors had to navigate their way to land, often using basic techniques, such as timing sunrise and sunset to measure longitude (such as for one of the life rafts of the Medon, above).

But they never faltered and played their part in the great effort that would eventually bring both conflicts to an end in victory.

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